Thomas J. Story
Few plants can brighten a tired corner like the tough perennials pictured here.
All thrive in summer heat and bloom nearly nonstop into fall if you keep the spent flowers picked.
Starting in June, you'll find the plants at nurseries, usually in 1-gallon cans (though the best selection of dahlias is available in spring, when you can plant them from tubers).
The small (8- by 10-foot) planting pictured here, in Sunset's test garden, incorporates some of our favorite perennials.
It includes showy centerpieces (yellow gloriosa daisies, pink and orange dahlias, and lavender-pink coneflowers, which huddle next to the pink dahlias); team players (yellow yarrow, purple penstemon, and golden yellow coreopsis); and airy fillers (white-flowered gaura and asters with white and lavender-pink daisylike flowers).
If you have more space, tuck in some ornamental oregano, or butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) with yellow or orange flowers to attract butterflies.
Choose a spot in full sun for your garden bed; if summers are especially hot in your area, pick a place that gets some afternoon shade.
Amend the soil with compost before planting. Water deeply at planting time, then frequently thereafter until they are established.
Design Bud Stuckey, Gardens by Design, Felton, CA (831/335-7090)
More: 9 easy summer flowers